A Man For All Causes: An Interview With Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Two of the world’s most famous spiritual leaders have visited Hawaii this year, and people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds have embraced their messages of peace, love and compassion. The Dalai Lama helped launch the Pillars of Peace series in mid-April and inspired a Lamapalooza-like following here.

Now, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has returned to Honolulu to give a popular series of talks at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, where his words will still reverberate long after he’s gone.

Though they come from very different worlds, the Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu share a kindred spirit of kindness that transcends their national borders and religious beliefs. They have faced incredible violence at the hands of powerful enemies, yet both men have won the Nobel Peace Prize for embracing non-violent resistance, peace and forgiveness. As if to spite pain and hardship, both spiritual leaders share the same playful sense of humor and light-hearted laughter that seems to come from a profound appreciation for life’s simple joys.

Along with being the first black Archbishop of South Africa, Tutu oversaw the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that helped heal the deep wounds and crimes of apartheid. Though temped to retire years ago, the Anglican bishop went on to become Chair of the Elders, a group of international leaders who are committed to helping resolve conflicts around the world.

As supporters of the Elders and personal friends of the Archbishop, Pierre and Pam Omidyar1 had wanted to bring “Arch” (as Pam likes to call him) to Hawaii for years. So when Father Walter Brownridge invited him to visit and give a series of talks at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, everything fell into place. Before becoming the first African-American Dean at the Cathedral, Brownridge had worked with Tutu in South Africa and their families had become friends.

Before his arrival, I emailed a series of questions to Bishop Tutu about his visit to the Islands and the many causes he supports around the world. Despite being jetlagged and busy, the Archbishop took the time and effort to answer the questions with his wit and wisdom.


  1. Pierre Omidyar is the publisher of Honolulu Civil Beat.  

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